How Do Windows Stay Open?

If you’ve ever lived in a home with old windows, you’ll know the traditional struggle of having to find something to prop open the heavy panes in the warmer months, like a stack of books or a paperweight. Similarly, if you’ve ever handled a window prior to or after installation, you’ll know how heavy the panes of glass and the accompanying components can be.

So, given that windows are generally quite heavy, it is often considered a curiosity how they manage to stay open (when they aren’t the heavy, aged windows that are typical in older homes). After all, many people who assume that all that heavy glass would cause the sash to very difficult to lift up and stay open on its own. 

How do single and double hung windows stay open?

Single and double hung windows are the type of windows that slide up and down within the frame, rather than opening outwards or inwards via a hinge or crank lever. Because glass and all the other components of windows can be very heavy, most single and double hung windows would be very difficult to open and close without the help of a balance. 

A window balance is a device that is mostly invisible because it is usually directly incorporated into the frame of the window. There are different types of window balances, suited for different types of windows, but the general purpose of them is the same. In short, when you push the window up, the balance helps you out by taking on a portion of the window’s weight.

Similarly, when you pull the window sash down to close the window, the balance creates tension within the frame so that the window glides smoothly downward, rather than crashing heavily and possibly damaging the glass. In short, window balances exist to take away the hassle and possible hazard associated with the traditional style of single and double hung windows that require significant muscle to open and close.

How do you determine if the window balance is failing?

Occasionally, window balances will need to be replaced. They are typically designed to last for about a decade or more, but eventually they will need to be serviced. The way that you can tell when your window balance is in need of a replacement is by paying attention to the window itself. 

Is your window gradually becoming more difficult to open, seemingly heavier and heavier each time? Does the sash come crashing down too hard and fast when you close the window? If either of these occur, chances are that the window balance is in need of replacing very soon. It’s not necessarily dire to replace a balance right away, but you will need to be careful with use of the window.

These changes in the functioning of your window can happen slowly over time, sometimes so gradually that you might not notice for a while. Other times, the balance can suddenly break and fail without warning, causing your window to suddenly be much more difficult to open or close. Regardless, make sure that you are gentle with the window so that you do not damage the glass or hurt yourself.

Can you replace a window balance by yourself?

Replacing a window balance is fairly simple, but will require some basic handyman knowledge. It’s not necessary to hire a professional to do it for you, but if you are at all uncertain about embarking on the process by yourself, it might be a good idea to consult an expert. 

Firstly, you need to know what type of window you have so that you can figure out what type of balance you have. It’s extremely important that you note the precise model of the window balance because if you replace it with the wrong model, chances are that the new window balance won’t function properly and you might have an even bigger hassle on your hands than before.

There are four types of window balances: block and tackle, coil, weight and pulley, and spiral. Each of these styles of window balances function differently from each other. The kind of window balance usually depends entirely on the type of window you have, as well as the age of the window. For example, weight and pulley balances are more common in old homes and are mostly out of use nowadays.

You can figure out what type of balance you have by removing the window sash. Most modern window designs have an easily removable sash that can help you pop out the frame with a simple lever or switch mechanism. Once you figure out what kind of balance is needed for your window, shop for the right replacement and ensure that you are doing the necessary research or asking a professional.

Is it expensive to replace a window balance?

Although it is typically very expensive to replace windows and various other window components, window balance replacements do not always have to break the bank. If you are confident in your abilities to do the work yourself, you can save on hiring a professional and only pay for the parts needed. If you hire a professional, chances are that you will have to pay a little more.

The cost of replacing a window balance depends entirely on whether the window itself is single or double hung. It also depends on the size of the window and the general type of window that you have. Furthermore, it can also depend on where you live. For example, if you live in an expensive city, chances are that a professional will charge you more premium prices for their labor.

In general, however, the average window balance replacement will cost no more than a couple hundred dollars, which is much less expensive than replacing the entire window itself. At the end of the day, if you’ve ever found yourself asking, “How do windows stay open?” you now know that there is a sophisticated system in place helping you out without even being seen!